Founded Wellness Q&A: Johann, Founder of Sagely
With so many new people in our community, we thought it was time we shared a bit more about some of the Founded Wellness team, so check out this series of Q&A's featuring a few of the faces working with our clients and inspiring better wellbeing at work.
Johann Bornman, Founder of Sagely
Sagely is the free your money, free your mind financial wellness startup - Johann and the team are the Founded Wellness partners and advisors for Financial Wellbeing.
Q. What are your particular areas of interest from a professional wellness point of view?
A. As the famous philosopher, Notorious BIG, once said “Mo money, mo problems”.
It’s quite scary how big of an impact financial concerns have on us. It’s the biggest cause of adult stress, has the biggest uplift and detriment on our wellbeing and, interestingly enough, is still completely a taboo subject in this country. They say to avoid sex, politics and religion around the dinner table, but according to the research, we are more uncomfortable talking about how much we are saving or are in debt!
Q. And in your non-professional life...what wellness things do you love?
A. Oh wow, how long do you have...If I had to give Ted talk on anything (besides the day job) it would be about the brain signalling. I believe when you dig deeply enough into wellness it really comes down to how your brain is firing. To massively simplify this, your body is either in a state of fight or flight or rest and digest and your brain (through the vagus nerve and the HPA-axis) is telling your entire body what it should do. It’s either healing itself and producing all the hormones and chemicals you need. Or not.
So much of wellness, yoga (mind-body), meditation, nutrition (gut health which impacts the brain) really optimises this.I think wellness, generally, has picked up so much because most of the western world suffer from low vagal tone. Which basically means dominance in our sympathetic nervous system. (You can actually measure this with an HRV monitor). So for me, it’s the epitome of wellness and where all the circles intersect...the mind.
Q. Was there life before wellness was part of your profession?
A. My background is in investment management, so completely unrelated. However, working long hours in the city was always “balanced” out with long hours of exercise. Getting up at 4 am to run, cycle and lift weights an hour before work to be exact. I say balanced ironically, because as great as it is to move every day and as healthy as I appeared back then, I consider consistent strenuous exercise on sleep deprivation anything but wellness.
Q. What do you think is the hardest part of our modern working lifestyles?
A. I think our entire modern day lifestyles are set up for constant dopamine triggers. I’ll happily pick on myself as an example. As a founder, I’m involved in so many facets of an early stage business. It makes my work and day amazingly varied but is also means constant task switching. Just replying to this interview turned into a battle with responding to important conversations on Slack.
So I think we are wiring ourselves (yes, I know should we start a drinking game whenever I say this) for shorter and shorter triggers and stimulation. This has a massive impact on how we interact with ourselves, our friends and family and the quality of our work. I’m sure everyone will say, the long hours, the screens, the stress, the uncertainty and I’ll probably get asked how it's possible I didn’t drag gut health into this answer, but we’re literally priming ourselves for reaction, cortisol and heightened states.
Q. How can we manage this better in the short term?
A. I think being able to do deep, focused work is going to become an highly prized skill. And you can do it by cultivating small consistent habits. Handy hacks that I use is to leave my phone on airplane mode all day, while I’m working. Turn off Slack (sorry team) and close down my email when I have to focus. Getting rid of anything that will cause a cognitive distraction or diverted attention.
Using something like a Pomodoro technique (often used in the tech industry) is also quite helpful. Lastly, having a meditation, yoga or mindfulness practice is also obviously the holy grail. Not only to help rebalance the constant reactionary states but to help you observe, become aware and recognise when you are no longer present in what you are doing because your brain is being distracted.
Q. In Tim Ferris style, in recent years, what new belief, behaviour or habit has most improved your life?
A. I had to really think about this question as entrepreneurship and perfect wellness habits don’t always go hand in hand.
I’d have to say yoga. I started practising in October 2015 and, if everything goes according to plan, I tend to practice about 5 times a week. I used to exercise an insane amount every week, but now all I do is yoga.It’s had an incredible impact on all facets of my life.
Q. What books are you reading or podcast are you listening to for inspiration?
A. I’m currently reading are The Hero of a Thousands Faces by Joseph Campbell, Solve for Happy by Mo Gawdat and The Radiance Sutras by Lorin Roche.
Q. What do you love most about inspiring better wellbeing for other people?
A. At Sagely we operate in an area that most people find complex, daunting, confusing and boring. So when someone walks away having broken through any or all of these facets and feel empowered it makes the late nights and early morning worth it.
I'd also say in my past life as an investment manager, it was providing a service for very wealthy individuals and I find that given our focus as a team is for people like you and me it also makes what we do far more rewarding.
Q. What's your go-to ‘survival technique’ for looking after your wellbeing each day?
I work pretty crazy hours so my ultimate survival hack is cold exposure. Cold showers when I don’t have time, but when I do have an hour then meditating in Hampstead Heath’s men's pond. The colder the better.